I recently started walking our 8 month old black Labrador “Rosie” in the mornings before work. She enjoys it so much, and I now cannot deny her these special moments.
I’m not a morning person, let’s be upfront about that. The day usually only dawns for me through a fog of rapid-fire coffee jolts. Conversation before 8 am is not recommended. If you move to stand in front of me I will lethargically bump into you, bounce off weakly, and then keep bumping into you again until you move out-of-the-way.
Rosie is now nearly fully grown (the picture above was taken 3 months ago), and she wasn’t getting enough walk time, as it is currently the dead of winter in Melbourne, being pitch dark when the family gets home from work or school, and pre-dawn when we wake up in the mornings. And it is freezing cold, apparently our coldest June in living memory. There is too much going on when we get home At night with getting dinner prepared, so realistically the early morning option was the only fair alternative available. I wasn’t very optimistic about being able to drag myself out of bed 30 minutes earlier each day, but thought I’d give it a try.
Dogs can detect a routine a mile off, particularly if it is one they like. The Day 1 walk was a pleasant surprise, day 2 a sequence that might hopefully lead to a trend, and day 3 for Rosie was absolute confirmation that she would be walked at 6.30 every morning for the rest of her life. Dogs have very accurate watches. She appears outside the back door at 6.30am sharp with 2 promises firmly in hand; the first, in order of importance, is that food is imminent. The sound of her tin bowl scraping across the courtyard as she inhales breakfast and chases the bowl across the bricks must surely awaken the entire neighbourhood. Secondly, she has a rock solid belief that I will immediately reach for the leash and overcoat and follow her out the front door.
So try to picture a wildly exuberant pup doing backflips at the front gate whilst I’m trying to lasoo her with a lead, and then see me practically skiing down the street behind her, as she drags me toward the park at the bottom of our street. Once off the lead at the park, Rosie melts into the darkness. There is a jogger doing laps around the park perimeter a few mornings a week and I make sure I yell out that Rosie is on her way, so he can turn sideways and deflect the impending full hit to the stomach. Rosie launches and hurls her whole body at joggers and slow-moving old folk. If I see anyone at the park I try to put Rosie back on her leash, as she is still too young to realise that being a foolishly youthful and overly friendly Labrador doesn’t include ripping clothing and decking the elderly.
The dawn breaks while we walk a path through wetlands, and ducks skim across the water in the half-light, and unseen water life move about in reeds at the water’s edge. The frost covers the park and our footprints mark our travels, with Rosie’s prints erratically crisscrossing mine, occasionally darting off to track a scent. It is quiet with human interaction but delightfully noisy with birdsong. These are things that I haven’t experienced, in relaxation, for very long time.
I walked our previous, eternally adored and sadly missed, black lab “Daisy” for 10 years during daylight evenings, and although totally different dogs, I am constantly reminded of their canine similarities; the way they stop and smell the flowers, zero in on scents and trails, hopelessly chase ducks and birds, and never moving more than 10 metres away from you, checking all the time to make sure you are ok. Each time I walk Rosie I see, remember, and reflect on some small part of Daisy. I like that.
Each morning as we walk back up the street toward the house it suddenly occurs to me that I am wide awake, refreshed, and ready for the day ahead. No coffee (yet). I have been exercised, entertained, and I have strengthened my friendship with our dog. I say that it suddenly occurs to me that I am awake because I make the startling realisation each day as if it is an original thought – such is the density of my mental morning fog.
I release Rosie from her leash once inside the front gate, and she ritually licks my hand and wags her tail to say thankyou. Once inside the house, Rosie races off the jump on beds and lick faces and I head directly to the kitchen to crank up the espresso machine.
It’s not until the third so-strong-you-can-stand-the-spoon-up-in-it cup of coffee at work that it dawns for me a second time each day. This is the moment that I realise that Rosie is doing far more for me, than I for her, during our new morning ritual.
And we enjoy it so much, we now cannot deny us these special moments.